LECTURES AND ESSAYS
These papers have been reprinted for friends who sometimes ask for the back numbers of periodicals in which they appeared. The great public is sick of reprints, and with good reason.
The volume might almost have been called Contributions to Canadian Literature, for of the papers not originally published in Canada several were reproduced in Canadian journals. Political subjects have been excluded both to keep a volume intended for friends free from anything of a party character and because the writer looks forward to putting the thoughts scattered over his political essays and reviews into a more connected form.
The papers on 'The Early Years of the Conqueror of Quebec,' 'A Wirepuller of Kings,' 'A True Captain of Industry' and 'Early Years of Abraham Lincoln' can hardly pretend to be more than accounts of books to which they relate, but they interested some of their readers at the time and there are probably not many copies of the books in Canada. All the papers have been revised, so that they do not appear here exactly as they were in the periodicals from which they are reprinted.
TORONTO, Feb. 16, 1881
THE GREATNESS OF THE ROMANS (Contemporary Review)
THE GREATNESS OF ENGLAND (Contemporary Review.)
THE GREAT DUEL OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY (Canadian Monthly)
THE LAMPS OF FICTION (A Speech on the Centenary of the Birth of Sir Walter Scott)
AN ADDRESS TO THE OXFORD SCHOOL OF SCIENCE AND ART
THE ASCENT OF MAN (Macmillan's Magazine.)
THE PROPOSED SUBSTITUTES FOR RELIGION (Macmillan's Magazine.)
THE LABOUR MOVEMENT (Canadian Monthly.)
WHAT IS CULPABLE LUXURY? (Canadian Monthly.)
A TRUE CAPTAIN OF INDUSTRY (Canadian Monthly.)
A WIREPULLER OF KINGS (Canadian Monthly.)
THE EARLY YEARS OF THE CONQUEROR OF QUEBEC (Toronto Nation.)
FALKLAND AND THE PURITANS (Contemporary Review.)
THE EARLY YEARS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN (Toronto Mail)
ALFREDUS REX FUNDATOR (Canadian Monthly)
THE LAST REPUBLICANS OF ROME (MacMillan's Magazine)
AUSTEN LEIGH'S MEMOIR OF JANE AUSTEN (New York Nation)
PATTISON'S MILTON (New York Nation)
CLERIDGE'S LIFE OF KEBLE (New York Nation)
THE GREATNESS OF THE ROMANS
Rome was great in arms, in government, in law. This combination was the talisman of her august fortunes. But the three things, though blended in her, are distinct from each other, and the political analyst is called upon to give a separate account of each. By what agency was this State, out of all the States of Italy, out of all the States of the world, elected to a triple pre-eminence, and to the imperial supremacy of which, it was the foundation? By what agency was Rome chosen as the foundress of an empire which we regard almost as a necessary step in human development, and which formed the material, and to no small extent the political matrix of modern Europe, though the spiritual life of our civilization is derived from another source? We are not aware that this question has ever been distinctly answered, or even distinctly propounded. The writer once put it to a very eminent Roman antiquarian, and the answer was a quotation from Virgil—
"Hoc nemus, hunc, inquit, frondoso vertice clivum Quis deus incertum est, habitat Deus; Arcades ipsum Credunt se vidisae Jovem cum saepe nigrantem AEgida concuteret dextra nimbosque cieret."
This perhaps was the best answer that Roman patriotism, ancient or modern, could give; and it certainly was given in the best form. The political passages of Virgil, like some in Lucan and Juvenal, had a grandeur entirely Roman with which neither Homer nor any other Greek has anything to do. But historical criticism, without doing injustice to the poetical aspect of the mystery, is bound to seek a rational solution. Perhaps in seeking the solution we may in some measure supply, or at least suggest the mode of supplying, a deficiency which we venture to think is generally found in the first chapters of histories. A national history, as it seems to us, ought to commence with a survey of the country or locality, its geographical position, climate, productions, and other physical circumstances as they bear on the character of the people. We ought to be presented, in short, with a complete description of the scene of the historic drama, as well as with an account of the race to which the actors belong. In the early stages of his development, at all events, man is mainly the creature of physical circumstances; and by a systematic examination of physical circumstances we may to some extent cast the horoscope of the infant nation as it lies in the arms of Nature.
That the central position of Rome, in the long and narrow peninsula of Italy, was highly favourable to her Italian dominion, and that the situation of Italy was favourable to her dominion over the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, has been often pointed out. But we have yet to ask what launched Rome in her career of conquest, and still more, what rendered that career so different from those of ordinary conquerors? What caused the Empire of Rome to be so durable? What gives it so high an organization? What made it so tolerable, and even in some cases beneficent to her subjects? What enabled it to perform services so important in preparing the way for a higher civilization?
About the only answer that we get to these questions is race. The Romans, we are told, were by nature a peculiarly warlike race. "They were the wolves of Italy," says Mr. Merivale, who may be taken to represent fairly the state of opinion on this subject. We are presented in short with the old fable of the Twins suckled by the She-wolf in a slightly rationalized form. It was more likely to be true, if anything, in its original form, for in mythology nothing is so irrational as rationalization. That unfortunate She-wolf with her Twins has now been long discarded by criticism as a historical figure; but she still obtrudes herself as a symbolical legend into the first chapter of Roman history, and continues to affect the historian's imagination and to give him a wrong bias at the outset. Who knows whether the statue which we possess is a real counterpart of the original? Who knows what the meaning of the original statue was? If the group was of great antiquity, we may be pretty sure that it was not political or historic, but religious; for primaeval art is the handmaid of religion; historic representation and political portraiture belong generally to a later age. We cannot tell with certainty even that the original statue was Roman: it may have been brought to Rome among the spoils of some conquered city, in which case it would have no reference to Roman history at all. We must banish it entirely from our minds, with all the associations and impressions which cling to it, and we must do the same with regard to the whole of that circle of legends woven out of misinterpreted monuments or customs, with the embellishments of pure fancy, which grouped itself round the apocryphal statues of the seven kings in the Capitol, aptly compared by Arnold to the apocryphal portraits of the early kings of Scotland in Holyrood and those of the mediaeval founders of Oxford in the Bodleian. We must clear our minds altogether of these fictions; they are not even ancient: they came into existence at a time when the early history of Rome was viewed in the deceptive light of her later achievements; when, under the influence of altered circumstances, Roman sentiment had probably undergone a considerable change; and when, consequently, the national imagination no longer pointed true to anything primaeval.
Race, when tribal peculiarities are once formed, is a most important feature in history; those who deny this and who seek to resolve everything, even in advanced humanity, into the influence of external circumstances or of some particular external circumstance, such as food, are not less one-sided or less wide of the truth than those who employ race as the universal solution. Who can doubt that between the English and the French, between the Scotch and the Irish, there are differences of character which have profoundly affected and still affect the course of history? The case is still stronger if we take races more remote from each other, such as the English and the Hindoo. But the further we inquire, the more reason there appears to be for believing that peculiarities of race are themselves originally formed by the influence of external circumstances on the primitive tribe; that, however marked and ingrained they may be, they are not congenital and perhaps not indelible. Englishmen and Frenchmen are closely assimilated by education; and the weaknesses of character supposed to be inherent in the Irish gradually disappear under the more benign influences of the New World. Thus, by ascribing the achievements of the Romans to the special qualities of their race, we should not be solving the problem, but only stating it again in other terms.
But besides this, the wolf theory halts in a still more evident manner. The foster-children of the she-wolf, let them have never so much of their foster-mother's milk in them, do not do what the Romans did, and they do precisely what the Romans did not. They kill, ravage, plunder— perhaps they conquer and even for a time retain their conquests—but they do not found highly organized empires, they do not civilize, much less do they give birth to law. The brutal and desolating domination of the Turk, which after being long artificially upheld by diplomacy, is at last falling into final ruin, is the type of an empire founded by the foster-children of the she-wolf. Plunder, in the animal lust of which alone it originated, remains its law, and its only notion of imperial administration is a coarse division, imposed by the extent of its territory, into satrapies, which, as the central dynasty, enervated by sensuality, loses its force, revolt, and break up the empire. Even the Macedonian, pupil of Aristotle though he was, did not create an empire at all comparable to that created by the Romans. He overran an immense extent of territory, and scattered over a portion of it the seed of an inferior species of Hellenic civilization, but he did not organize it politically, much less did he give it, and through it the world, a code of law. It at once fell apart into a number of separate kingdoms, the despotic rulers of which were Sultans with a tinge of Hellenism, and which went for nothing in the political development of mankind.
What if the very opposite theory to that of the she-wolf and her foster- children should be true? What if the Romans should have owed their peculiar and unparalleled success to their having been at first not more warlike, but less warlike than their neighbours? It may seem a paradox, but we suspect in their imperial ascendency is seen one of the earliest and not least important steps in that gradual triumph of intellect over force, even in war, which has been an essential part of the progress of civilization. The happy day may come when Science in the form of a benign old gentleman with a bald head and spectacles on nose, holding some beneficent compound in his hand, will confront a standing army and the standing army will cease to exist. That will be the final victory of intellect. But in the meantime, our acknowledgments are due to the primitive inventors of military organization and military discipline. They shivered Goliath's spear. A mass of comparatively unwarlike burghers, unorganized and undisciplined, though they may be the hope of civilization from their mental and industrial qualities, have as little of collective as they have of individual strength in war; they only get in each other's way, and fall singly victims to the prowess of a gigantic barbarian. He who first thought of combining their force by organization, so as to make their numbers tell, and who taught them to obey officers, to form regularly for action, and to execute united movements at the word of command, was, perhaps, as great a benefactor of the species as he who grew the first corn, or built the first canoe.
What is the special character of the Roman legends, so far as they relate to war? Their special character is, that they are legends not of personal prowess but of discipline. Rome has no Achilles. The great national heroes, Camillus, Cincinnatus, Papirius, Cursor, Fabius Maximus, Manlius are not prodigies of personal strength and valour, but commanders and disciplinarians. The most striking incidents are incidents of discipline. The most striking incident of all is the execution by a commander of his own son for having gained a victory against orders. "Disciplinam militarem," Manlius is made to say, "qua stetit ad hanc diem Romana res." Discipline was the great secret of Roman ascendency in war. It is the great secret of all ascendency in war. Victories of the undisciplined over the disciplined, such as Killiecrankie and Preston Pans, are rare exceptions which only prove the rule. The rule is that in anything like a parity of personal prowess and of generalship discipline is victory. Thrice Rome encountered discipline equal or superior to her own. Pyrrhus at first beat her, but there was no nation behind him, Hannibal beat her, but his nation did not support him; she beat the army of Alexander, but the army of Alexander when it encountered her, like that of Frederic at Jena, was an old machine, and it was commanded by a man who was more like Tippoo Sahib than the conqueror of Darius.
But how came military discipline to be so specially cultivated by the Romans? We can see how it came to be specially cultivated by the Greeks: it was the necessity of civic armies, fighting perhaps against warlike aristocracies; it was the necessity of Greeks in general fighting against the invading hordes of the Persian. We can see how it came to be cultivated among the mercenaries and professional soldiers of Pyrrhus and Hannibal. But what was the motive power in the case of Rome? Dismissing the notion of occult qualities of race, we look for a rational explanation in the circumstances of the plain which was the cradle of the Roman Empire.
It is evident that in the period designated as that of the kings, when Rome commenced her career of conquest, she was, for that time and country, a great and wealthy city. This is proved by the works of the kings, the Capitoline Temple, the excavation for the Circus Maximus, the Servian Wall, and above all the Cloaca Maxima. Historians have indeed undertaken to give us a very disparaging picture of the ancient Rome, which they confidently describe as nothing more than a great village of shingle-roofed cottages thinly scattered over a large area. We ask in vain what are the materials for this description. It is most probable that the private buildings of Rome under the kings were roofed with nothing better than shingle, and it is very likely that they were mean and dirty, as the private buildings of Athens appear to have been, and as those of most of the great cities of the Middle Ages unquestionably were. But the Cloaca Maxima is in itself conclusive evidence of a large population, of wealth, and of a not inconsiderable degree of civilization. Taking our stand upon this monument, and clearing our vision entirely of Romulus and his asylum, we seem dimly to perceive the existence of a deep prehistoric background, richer than is commonly supposed in the germs of civilization,—a remark which may in all likelihood be extended to the background of history in general. Nothing surely can be more grotesque than the idea of a set of wolves, like the Norse pirates before their conversion to Christianity, constructing in their den the Cloaca Maxima.
That Rome was comparatively great and wealthy is certain. We can hardly doubt that she was a seat of industry and commerce, and that the theory which represents her industry and commerce as having been developed subsequently to her conquests is the reverse of the fact. Whence, but from industry and commerce, could the population and the wealth have come? Peasant farmers do not live in cities, and plunderers do not accumulate. Rome had around her what was then a rich and peopled plain; she stood at a meeting-place of nationalities; she was on a navigable river, yet out of the reach of pirates; the sea near her was full of commerce, Etruscan, Greek, and Carthaginian. Her first colony was Ostia, evidently commercial and connected with salt-works, which may well have supplied the staple of her trade. Her patricians were financiers and money-lenders. We are aware that a different turn has been given to this part of the story, and that the indebtedness has been represented as incurred not by loans of money, but by advances of farm stock. This, however, completely contradicts the whole tenor of the narrative, and especially what is said about the measures for relieving the debtor by reducing the rate of interest and by deducting from the principal debt the interest already paid. The narrative as it stands, moreover, is supported by analogy. It has a parallel in the economical history of ancient Athens, and in the "scaling of debts," to use the American equivalent for Seisachtheia, by the legislation of Solon. What prevents our supposing that usury, when it first made its appearance on the scene, before people had learned to draw the distinction between crimes and defaults, presented itself in a very coarse and cruel form? True, the currency was clumsy, and retained philological traces of a system of barter; but without commerce there could have been no currency at all.
Even more decisive is the proof afforded by the early political history of Rome. In that wonderful first decade of Livy there is no doubt enough of Livy himself to give him a high place among the masters of fiction. It is the epic of a nation of politicians, and admirably adapted for the purposes of education as the grand picture of Roman character and the richest treasury of Roman sentiment. But we can hardly doubt that in the political portion there is a foundation of fact; it is too circumstantial, too consistent in itself, and at the same time too much borne out by analogy, to be altogether fiction. The institutions which we find existing in historic times must have been evolved by some such struggle between the orders of patricians and plebeians as that which Livy presents to us. And these politics, with their parties and sections of parties, their shades of political character, the sustained interest which they imply in political objects, their various devices and compromises, are not the politics of a community of peasant farmers, living apart each on his own farm and thinking of his own crops: they are the politics of the quick-witted and gregarious population of an industrial and commercial city. They are politics of the same sort as those upon which the Palazzo Vecchio looked down in Florence. That ancient Rome was a republic there can be no doubt. Even the so-called monarchy appears clearly to have been elective; and republicanism may be described broadly with reference to its origin, as the government of the city and of the artisan, while monarchy and aristocracy are the governments of the country and of farmers.
The legend which ascribes the assembly of centuries to the legislation of Servius probably belongs to the same class as the legend which ascribes trial by jury and the division of England into shires to the legislation of Alfred. Still the assembly of centuries existed; it was evidently ancient, belonging apparently to a stratum of institutions anterior to the assembly of tribes; and it was a constitution distributing political power and duties according to a property qualification which, in the upper grades, must, for the period, have been high, though measured by a primitive currency. The existence of such qualifications, and the social ascendency of wealth which the constitution implies, are inconsistent with the theory of a merely agricultural and military Rome. Who would think of framing such a constitution, say, for one of the rural districts of France?
Other indications of the real character of the prehistoric Rome might be mentioned. The preponderance of the infantry and the comparative weakness of the cavalry is an almost certain sign of democracy, and of the social state in which democracy takes its birth—at least in the case of a country which did not, like Arcadia or Switzerland, preclude by its nature the growth of a cavalry force, but on the contrary was rather favourable to it. Nor would it be easy to account for the strong feeling of attachment to the city which led to its restoration when it had been destroyed by the Gauls, and defeated the project of a migration to Veii, if Rome was nothing but a collection of miserable huts, the abodes of a tribe of marauders. We have, moreover, the actual traces of an industrial organization in the existence of certain guilds of artisans, which may have been more important at first than they were when the military spirit had become thoroughly ascendant.
Of course when Rome had once been drawn into the career of conquest, the ascendency of the military spirit would be complete; war, and the organization of territories acquired in war, would then become the great occupation of her leading citizens; industry and commerce would fall into disesteem, and be deemed unworthy of the members of the imperial race. Carthage would no doubt have undergone a similar change of character, had the policy which was carried to its greatest height by the aspiring house of Barcas succeeded in converting her from a trading city into the capital of a great military empire. So would Venice, had she been able to carry on her system of conquest in the Levant and of territorial aggrandisement on the Italian mainland. The career of Venice was arrested by the League of Cambray. On Carthage the policy of military aggrandisement, which was apparently resisted by the sage instinct of the great merchants while it was supported by the professional soldiers and the populace, brought utter ruin; while Rome paid the inevitable penalty of military despotism. Even when the Roman nobles had become a caste of conquerors and proconsuls, they retained certain mercantile habits; unlike the French aristocracy, and aristocracies generally, they were careful keepers of their accounts, and they showed a mercantile talent for business, as well as a more than mercantile hardness, in their financial exploitation of the conquered world. Brutus and his contemporaries were usurers like the patricians of the early times. No one, we venture to think, who has been accustomed to study national character, will believe that the Roman character was formed by war alone: it was manifestly formed by war combined with business.
To what an extent the later character of Rome affected national tradition, or rather fiction, as to her original character, we see from the fable which tells us that she had no navy before the first Punic war, and that when compelled to build a fleet by the exigencies of that war, she had to copy a Carthaginian war galley which had been cast ashore, and to train her rowers by exercising them on dry land. She had a fleet before the war with Pyrrhus, probably from the time at which she took possession of Antium, if not before; and her first treaty with Carthage even if it is to be assigned to the date to which Mommsen, and not to that which Polybius assigns it, shows that before 348 B.C. she had an interest in a wide sea-board, which must have carried with it some amount of maritime power.
Now this wealthy, and, as we suppose, industrial and commercial city was the chief place, and in course of time became the mistress and protectress, of a plain large for that part of Italy, and then in such a condition as to be tempting to the spoiler. Over this plain on two sides hung ranges of mountains inhabited by hill tribes, Sabines, AEquians, Volscians, Hernicans, with the fierce and restless Samnite in the rear. No doubt these hill tribes raided on the plain as hill tribes always do; probably they were continually being pressed down upon it by the migratory movements of other tribes behind them. Some of them seem to have been in the habit of regularly swarming, like bees, under the form of the Ver Sacrum. On the north, again, were the Etruscan hill towns, with their lords, pirates by sea, and probably marauders by land; for the period of a more degenerate luxury and frivolity may be regarded as subsequent to their subjugation by the Romans; at any rate, when they first appear upon the scene they are a conquering race. The wars with the AEqui and Volsci have been ludicrously multiplied and exaggerated by Livy; but even without the testimony of any historian, we might assume that there would be wars with them and with the other mountaineers, and also with the marauding Etruscan chiefs. At the same time, we may be sure that, in personal strength and prowess, the men of the plain and of the city would be inferior both to the mountaineers and to those Etruscan chiefs whose trade was war. How did the men of the plain and of the city manage to make up for this inferiority, to turn the scale of force in their favour, and ultimately to subdue both the mountaineers and Etruscans? In the conflict with the mountaineers, something might be done by that superiority of weapons which superior wealth would afford. But more would be done by military organization and discipline. To military organization and discipline the Romans accordingly learnt to submit themselves, as did the English Parliamentarians after the experience of Edgehill, as did the democracy of the Northern States of America after the experience of the first campaign. At the same time the Romans learned the lesson so momentous, and at the same time so difficult for citizen soldiers, of drawing the line between civil and military life. The turbulent democracy of the former, led into the field, doffed the citizen, donned the soldier; and obeyed the orders of a commander whom as citizens they detested, and whom when they were led back to the forum at the end of the summer campaign they were ready again to oppose and to impeach. No doubt all this part of the history has been immensely embellished by the patriotic imagination, the heroic features have been exaggerated, the harsher features softened though not suppressed. Still it is impossible to question the general fact. The result attests the process. The Roman legions were formed in the first instance of citizen soldiers, who yet had been made to submit to a rigid discipline, and to feel that in that submission lay their strength. When, to keep up the siege of Veii, military pay was introduced, a step was taken in the transition from a citizen soldiery to a regular army, such as the legions ultimately became, with its standing discipline of the camp; and that the measure should have been possible is another proof that Rome was a great city, with a well-supplied treasury, not a collection of mud huts. No doubt the habit of military discipline reacted on the political character of the people, and gave it the strength and self-control which were so fatally wanting in the case of Florence.
The line was drawn, under the pressure of a stern necessity, between civil and military life, and between the rights and duties of each. The power of the magistrate, jealously limited in the city, was enlarged to absolutism for the preservation of discipline in the field. But the distinction between the king or magistrate and the general, and between the special capacities required for the duties of each, is everywhere of late growth. We may say the same of departmental distinctions altogether. The executive, the legislative, the judicial power, civil authority and military command, all lie enfolded in the same primitive germ. The king, or the magistrate who takes his place, is expected to lead the people in war as well as to govern them in peace. In European monarchies this idea still lingers, fortified no doubt by the personal unwillingness of the kings to let the military power go out of their hands. Nor in early times is the difference between the qualifications of a ruler and those of a commander so great as it afterwards became; the business of the State is simple, and force of character is the main requisite in both cases. Annual consulships must have been fatal to strategical experience, while, on the other hand, they would save the Republic from being tied to an unsuccessful general. But the storms of war which broke on Rome from all quarters soon brought about the recognition of special aptitude for military command in the appointment of dictators. As to the distinction between military and naval ability, it is of very recent birth: Blake, Prince Rupert, and Monk were made admirals because they had been successful as generals, just as Hannibal was appointed by Antiochus to the command of a fleet.
At Preston Pans, as before at Killiecrankie, the line of the Hanoverian regulars was broken by the headlong charge of the wild clans, for which the regulars were unprepared. Taught by the experience of Preston Pans, the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden formed in three lines, so as to repair a broken front. The Romans in like manner formed in three lines— hastati, principes, and triarii—evidently with the same object. Our knowledge of the history of Roman tactics does not enable us to say exactly at what period this formation began to supersede the phalanx, which appears to have preceded it, and which is the natural order of half-disciplined or imperfectly armed masses, as we see in the case of the army formed by Philip out of the Macedonian peasantry, and again in the case of the French Revolutionary columns. We cannot say, therefore, whether this formation in three lines is in any way traceable to experience dearly bought in wars with Italian highlanders, or to a lesson taught by the terrible onset of the Gaul. Again, the punctilious care in the entrenchment of the camp, even for a night's halt, which moved the admiration of Pyrrhus and was a material part of Roman tactics, was likely to be inculcated by the perils to which a burgher army would be exposed in carrying on war under or among hills where it would be always liable to the sudden attack of a swift, sure-footed, and wily foe. The habit of carrying a heavy load of palisades on the march would be a part of the same necessity.
Even from the purely military point of view, then, the She-wolf and the Twins seem to us not appropriate emblems of Roman greatness. A better frontispiece for historians of Rome, if we mistake not, would be some symbol of the patroness of the lowlands and their protectress against the wild tribes of the highlands. There should also be something to symbolize the protectress of Italy against the Gauls, whose irruptions Rome, though defeated at Allia, succeeded ultimately in arresting and hurling back, to the general benefit of Italian civilization which, we may be sure, felt very grateful to her for that service, and remembered it when her existence was threatened by Hannibal, with Gauls in his army. Capua, though not so well situated for the leadership of Italy, might have played the part of Rome; but the plain which she commanded, though very rich, was too small, and too closely overhung by the fatal hills of the Samnite, under whose dominion she fell. Rome had space to organize a strong lowland resistance to the marauding highland powers. It seems probable that her hills were not only the citadel but the general refuge of the lowlanders of those parts, when forced to fly before the onslaught of the highlanders, who were impelled by successive wars of migration to the plains. The Campagna affords no stronghold or rallying point but those hills, which may have received a population of fugitives like the islands of Venice. The city may have drawn part of its population and some of its political elements from this source. In this sense the story of the Asylum may possibly represent a fact, though it has itself nothing to do with history.
Then, as to imperial organization and government. Superiority in these would naturally flow from superiority in civilization, and in previous political training, the first of which Rome derived from her comparative wealth and from the mental characteristics of a city population; the second she derived from the long struggle through which the rights of the plebeians were equalized with those of the patricians, and which again must have had its ultimate origin in geographical circumstance bringing together different elements of population. Cromwell was a politician and a religious leader before he was a soldier; Napoleon was a soldier before he was a politician: to this difference between the moulds in which their characters were cast may be traced, in great measure, the difference of their conduct when in power, Cromwell devoting himself to political and ecclesiastical reform, while Napoleon used his supremacy chiefly as the means of gratifying his lust for war. There is something analogous in the case of imperial nations. Had the Roman, when he conquered the world been like the Ottoman, like the Ottoman he would probably have remained. His thirst for blood slaked, he would simply have proceeded to gratify his other animal lusts; he would have destroyed or consumed everything, produced nothing, delivered over the world to a plundering anarchy of rapacious satraps, and when his sensuality had overpowered his ferocity, he would have fallen in his turn before some horde whose ferocity was fresh, and the round of war and havoc would have commenced again. The Roman destroyed and consumed a good deal; but he also produced not a little: he produced, among other things, first in Italy, then in the world at large, the Peace of Rome indispensable to civilization, and destined to be the germ and precursor of the Peace of Humanity.
In two respects, however, the geographical circumstances of Rome appear specially to have prepared her for the exercise of universal empire. In the first place, her position was such as to bring her into contact from the outset with a great variety of races. The cradle of her dominion was a sort of ethnological microcosm. Latins, Etruscans, Greeks, Campanians, with all the mountain races and the Gauls, make up a school of the most diversified experience, which could not fail to open the minds of the future masters of the world. How different was this education from that of a people which is either isolated, like the Egyptians, or comes into contact perhaps in the way of continual border hostility with a single race! What the exact relations of Rome with Etruria were in the earliest times we do not know, but evidently they were close; while between the Roman and the Etruscan character the difference appears to have been as wide as possible. The Roman was pre-eminently practical and business- like, sober-minded, moral, unmystical, unsacerdotal, much concerned with present duties and interests, very little concerned about a future state of existence, peculiarly averse from human sacrifices and from all wild and dark superstitions. The Etruscan, as he has portrayed himself to us in his tombs, seems to have been, in his later development at least, a mixture of Sybaritism with a gloomy and almost Mexican religion, which brooded over the terrors of the next world, and sought in the constant practice of human sacrifice a relief from its superstitious fear. If the Roman could tolerate the Etruscans, be merciful to them, and manage them well, he was qualified to deal in a statesmanlike way with the peculiarities of almost any race, except those whose fierce nationality repelled all management whatever. In borrowing from the Etruscans some of their theological lore and their system of divination, small as the value of the things borrowed was, the Roman, perhaps, gave an earnest of the receptiveness which led him afterwards, in his hour of conquest, to bow to the intellectual ascendency of the conquered Greek, and to become a propagator of Greek culture, though partly in a Latinized form, more effectual than Alexander and his Orientalized successors.
In the second place, the geographical circumstances of Rome, combined with her character, would naturally lead to the foundation of colonies and of that colonial system which formed a most important and beneficent part of her empire. We have derived the name colony from Rome; but her colonies were just what ours are not, military outposts of the empire, propugnacula imperii. Political depletion and provision for needy citizens were collateral, but it would seem, in early times at least, secondary objects. Such outposts were the means suggested by Nature, first of securing those parts of the plain which were beyond the sheltering range of the city itself, secondly of guarding the outlets of the hills against the hill tribes, and eventually of holding down the tribes in the hills themselves. The custody of the passes is especially marked as an object by the position of many of the early colonies. When the Roman dominion extended to the north of Italy, the same system was pursued, in order to guard against incursions from the Alps. A conquering despot would have planted mere garrisons under military governors, which would not have been centres of civilization, but probably of the reverse. The Roman colonies, bearing onwards with them the civil as well as the military life of the Republic, were, with the general system of provincial municipalities of which they constituted the core, to no small extent centres of civilization, though doubtless they were also to some extent instruments of oppression. "Where the Roman conquered he dwelt," and the dwelling of the Roman was, on the whole, the abode of a civilizing influence. Representation of dependencies in the sovereign assembly of the imperial country was unknown, and would have been impracticable. Conquest had not so far put off its iron nature. In giving her dependencies municipal institutions and municipal life, Rome did the next best thing to giving them representation. A Roman province with its municipal life was far above a satrapy, though far below a nation.
Then how came Rome to be the foundress and the great source of law? This, as we said before, calls for a separate explanation. An explanation we do not pretend to give, but merely a hint which may deserve notice in looking for the explanation. In primitive society, in place of law, in the proper sense of the term, we find only tribal custom, formed mainly by the special exigencies of tribal self- preservation, and confined to the particular tribe. When Saxon and Dane settle down in England side by side under the treaty made between Alfred and Guthurm, each race retains the tribal custom which serves it as a criminal law. A special effort seems to be required in order to rise above this custom to that conception of general right or expediency which is the germ of law as a science. The Greek, sceptical and speculative as he was, appears never to have quite got rid of the notion that there was something sacred in ancestral custom, and that to alter it by legislation was a sort of impiety. We in England still conceive that there is something in the breast of the judge, and the belief is a lingering shadow of the tribal custom, the source of the common law. Now what conditions would be most favourable to this critical effort, so fraught with momentous consequences to humanity? Apparently a union of elements belonging to different tribes such as would compel them, for the preservation of peace and the regulation of daily intercourse, to adopt some common measure of right. It must be a union, not a conquest of one tribe by another, otherwise the conquering tribe would of course keep its own customs, as the Spartans did among the conquered people of Laconia. Now it appears likely that these conditions were exactly fulfilled by the primaeval settlements on the hills of Rome. The hills are either escarped by nature or capable of easy escarpment, and seem originally to have been little separate fortresses, by the union of which the city was ultimately formed. That there were tribal differences among the inhabitants of the different hills is a belief to which all traditions and all the evidence of institutions point, whether we suppose the difference to have been great or not and whatever special theory we may form as to the origin of the Roman people. If the germ of law, as distinguished from custom, was brought into existence in this manner, it would be fostered and expanded by the legislative exigencies of the political and social concordat between the two orders, and also by those arising out of the adjustment of relations with other races in the course of conquest and colonization.
Roman law had also, in common with Roman morality, the advantage of being comparatively free from the perverting influences of tribal superstition. [Footnote: From religious perversion Roman law was eminently free: but it could not be free from perverting influences of a social kind; so that we ought to be cautious, for instance, in borrowing law on any subject concerning the relations between the sexes from the corrupt society of the Roman Empire.] Roman morality was in the main a rational rule of duty, the shortcomings and aberrations of which arose not from superstition, but from narrowness of perception, peculiarity of sphere, and the bias of national circumstance. The auguries, which were so often used for the purposes of political obstruction or intrigue, fall under the head rather of trickery than of superstition.
Roman law in the same manner was a rule of expediency, rightly or wrongly conceived, with comparatively little tincture of religion. In this again we probably see the effect of a fusion of tribes upon the tribal superstitions. "Rome," it has been said, "had no mythology." This is scarcely an overstatement; and we do not account for the fact by saying that the Romans were unimaginative, because it is not the creative imagination that produces a mythology, but the impression made by the objects and forces of nature on the minds of the forefathers of the tribe.
A more tenable explanation, at all events, is that just suggested, the disintegration of mythologies by the mixture of tribes. A part of the Roman religion—the worship of such abstractions as Fides, Fortuna, Salus, Concordia, Bellona, Terminus—even looks like a product of the intellect posterior to the decay of the mythologies, which we may be pretty sure were physical. It is no doubt true that the formalities which were left—hollow ceremonial, auguries, and priesthoods which were given without scruple, like secular offices, to the most profligate men of the world—were worse than worthless in a religious point of view. But historians who dwell on this fail to see that the real essence of religion, a belief in the power of duty and of righteousness, that belief which afterwards took the more definite form of Roman Stoicism, had been detached by the dissolution of the mythologies, and exerted its force, such as that force was, independently of the ceremonial, the sacred chickens, and the dissipated high priests. In this sense the tribute paid by Polybius to the religious character of the Romans is deserved; they had a higher sense of religious obligation than the Greeks; they were more likely than the Greeks, the Phoenicians, or any of their other rivals, to swear and disappoint not, though it were to their own hindrance; and this they owed, as we conceive, not to an effort of speculative intellect, which in an early stage of society would be out of the question, but to some happy conjunction of circumstances such as would be presented by a break-up of tribal mythologies, combined with influences favourable to the formation of strong habits of political and social duty. Religious art was sacrificed; that was the exclusive heritage of the Greek; but superior morality was on the whole the heritage of the Roman, and if he produced no good tragedy himself, he furnished characters for Shakespeare and Corneille.
Whatever set the Romans free, or comparatively free, from the tyranny of tribal religion may be considered as having in the same measure been the source of the tolerance which was so indispensable a qualification for the exercise of dominion over a polytheistic world. They waged no war on "the gods of the nations," or on the worshippers of those gods as such. They did not set up golden images after the fashion of Nebuchadnezzar. In early times they seem to have adopted the gods of the conquered, and to have transported them to their own city. In later times they respected all the religions except Judaism and Druidism, which assumed the form of national resistance to the empire, and worships which they deemed immoral or anti-social, and which had intruded themselves into Rome.
Another grand step in the development of law is the severance of the judicial power from the legislative and the executive, which permits the rise of jurists, and of a regular legal profession. This is a slow process. In the stationary East, as a rule, the king has remained the supreme judge. At Athens, the sovereign people delegated its judicial powers to a large committee, but it got no further; and the judicial committee was hardly more free from political passion, or more competent to decide points of law, than the assembly itself. In England the House of Lords still, formally at least, retains judicial functions. Acts of attainder were a yet more primitive as well as more objectionable relic of the times in which the sovereign power, whether king, assembly, or the two combined, was ruler, legislator, and judge all in one. We shall not attempt here to trace the process by which this momentous separation of powers and functions was to a remarkable extent accomplished in ancient Rome. But we are pretty safe in saying that the praetor peregrinus was an important figure in it, and that it received a considerable impulse from the exigencies of a jurisdiction between those who as citizens came under the sovereign assembly and the aliens or semi-aliens who did not.
Whether the partial explanations of the mystery of Roman greatness which we have here suggested approve themselves to the reader's judgment or not, it may at least be said for them that they are verae causae, which is not the case with the story of the foster-wolf, or anything derived from it, any more than with the story of the prophetic apparitions of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill.
With regard to the public morality of the Romans, and to their conduct and influence as masters of the world, the language of historians seems to us to leave something to be desired. Mommsen's tone, whenever controverted questions connected with international morality and the law of conquest arise, is affected by his Prussianism; it betokens the transition of the German mind from the speculative and visionary to the practical and even more than practical state; it is premonitory not only of the wars with Austria and France, but of a coming age in which the forces of natural selection are again to operate without the restraints imposed by religion, and the heaviest fist is once more to make the law. In the work of Ihne we see a certain recoil from Mommsen, and at the same time an occasional inconsistency and a want of stability in the principle of judgment. Our standard ought not to be positive but relative. It was the age of force and conquest, not only with the Romans but with all nations; hospes was hostis. A perfectly independent development of Greeks, Romans, Etruscans, Phoenicians, and all the other nationalities, might perhaps have been the best thing for humanity. But this was out of the question; in that stage of the world's existence contact was war, and the end of war was conquest or destruction, the first of which was at all events preferable to the second. What empire then can we imagine which would have done less harm or more good than the Roman? Greek intellect showed its superiority in speculative politics as in all other departments of speculation, but as a practical politician the Greek was not self-controlled or strong, and he would never have bestowed on the provinces of his empire local self- government and municipal life; besides, the race, though it included wonderful varieties in itself, was, as a race, intensely tribal, and treated persistently all other races as barbarians. It would have deprived mankind of Roman law and politics, as well as of that vast extension of the Roman aedileship which covered the world with public works beneficent in themselves and equally so as examples; whereas the Roman had the greatness of soul to do homage to Greek intellect, and, notwithstanding an occasional Mummius, preserved all that was of the highest value in Greek civilization, better perhaps than it would have been preserved by the tyrants and condottieri of the Greek decadence. As to a Semitic Empire, whether in the hands of Syrians or Carthaginians, with their low Semitic craft, their Moloch-worships and their crucifixions,—the very thought fills us with horror. It would have been a world-wide tyranny of the strong box, into which all the products of civilization would have gone. Parcere subjectis was the rule of Rome as well as debellare superbos; and while all conquest is an evil, the Roman was the most clement and the least destructive of conquerors. This is true of him on the whole, though he sometimes was guilty of thoroughly primaeval cruelty. He was the great author of the laws of war as well as of the laws of peace. That he not seldom, when his own interest was concerned, put the mere letter of the social law in place of justice, and that we are justly revolted on these occasions by his hypocritical observance of forms, is very true: nevertheless, his scrupulosity and the language of the national critics in these cases prove the existence of at least a rudimentary conscience. No compunction for breach of international law or justice we may be sure ever visited the heart of Tiglath-Pileser. Cicero's letter of advice to his brother on the government of a province may seem a tissue of truisms now, though Warren Hastings and Sir Elijah Impey would hardly have found it so, but it is a landmark in the history of civilization. That the Roman Republic should die, and that a colossal and heterogeneous empire should fall under the rule of a military despot, was perhaps a fatal necessity; but the despotism long continued to be tempered, elevated, and rendered more beneficent by the lingering spirit of the Republic; the liberalism of Trajan and the Antonines was distinctly republican nor did Sultanism finally establish itself before Diocletian. Perhaps we may number among the proofs of the Roman's superiority the capacity shown so far as we know first by him of being touched by the ruin of a rival. We may be sure that no Assyrian conqueror even affected to weep over the fall of a hostile city however magnificent and historic. On the whole it must be allowed that physical influences have seldom done better for humanity than they did in shaping the imperial character and destinies of Rome.
THE GREATNESS OF ENGLAND
[Footnote: The writer some time ago gave a lecture before the Royal Institution on "The Influence of Geographical Circumstances on Political Character," using Rome and England as illustrations. It may perhaps be right to say that the present paper, which touches here and there on matters of political opinion, is not identical with the latter portion of that lecture.]
Two large islands lie close to that Continent which has hitherto been selected by Nature as the chief seat of civilization. One island is much larger than the other, and the larger island lies between the smaller and the Continent. The larger island is so placed as to receive primaeval immigration from three quarters—from France, from the coast of Northern Germany and the Low Countries, and from Scandinavia, the transit being rendered somewhat easier in the last case by the prevailing winds and by the little islands which Scotland throws out, as resting-places and guides for the primaeval navigator, into the Northern Sea. The smaller island, on the other hand, can hardly receive immigration except through the larger, though its southern ports look out, somewhat ominously to the eye of history, towards Spain. The western and northern parts of the larger island are mountainous, and it is divided into two very unequal parts by the Cheviot Hills and the mosses of the Border. In the larger island are extensive districts well suited for grain. The climate of most of the smaller is too wet for grain and good only for pasture. The larger island is full of minerals and coal, of which the smaller island is almost destitute. These are the most salient features of the scene of English history, and, with a temperate climate, the chief physical determinants of English destiny.
What, politically speaking, are the special attributes of an island? In the first place, it is likely to be settled by a bold and enterprising race. Migration by land under the pressure of hunger or of a stronger tribe, or from the mere habit of wandering, calls for no special effort of courage or intelligence on the part of the nomad. Migration by sea does: to go forth on a strange element at all, courage is required; but we can hardly realize the amount of courage required to go voluntarily out of sight of land. The first attempts at ship-building also imply superior intelligence, or an effort by which the intelligence will be raised. Of the two great races which make up the English nation, the Celtic had only to pass a channel which you can see across, which perhaps in the time of the earliest migration did not exist. But the Teutons, who are the dominant race and have supplied the basis of the English character and institutions, had to pass a wider sea. From Scandinavia, especially, England received, under the form of freebooters, who afterwards became conquerors and settlers, the very core and sinews of her maritime population, the progenitors of the Blakes and Nelsons. The Northman, like the Phoenician, had a country too narrow for him, and timber for ship-building at hand. But the land of the Phoenician was a lovely land, which bound him to itself; and wherever he moved his heart still turned to the pleasant abodes of Lebanon and the sunlit quays of Tyre. Thus he became a merchant, and the father of all who have made the estranging sea a highway and a bond between nations, more than atoning by the service thus rendered to humanity, for his craft, his treachery, his cruelty, and his Moloch- worship. The land of the Scandinavian was not a lovely land, though it was a land suited to form strong arms, strong hearts, chaste natures, and, with purity, strength of domestic affection. He was glad to exchange it for a sunnier dwelling-place, and thus, instead of becoming a merchant, he became the founder of Norman dynasties in Italy, France, and England. We are tempted to linger over the story of these primaeval mariners, for nothing equals it in romance. In our day Science has gone before the most adventurous barque, limiting the possibilities of discovery, disenchanting the enchanted Seas, and depriving us for ever of Sinbad and Ulysses. But the Phoenician and the Northman put forth into a really unknown world. The Northman, moreover, was so far as we know the first ocean sailor. If the story of the circumnavigation of Africa by the Phoenicians is true, it was an astonishing enterprise, and almost dwarfs modern voyages of discovery. Still it would be a coasting voyage, and the Phoenician seems generally to have hugged the land. But the Northman put freely out into the wild Atlantic, and even crossed it before Columbus, if we may believe a legend made specially dear to the Americans by the craving of a new country for antiquities. It has been truly said, that the feeling of the Greek, mariner as he was, towards the sea, remained rather one of fear and aversion, intensified perhaps by the treacherous character of the squally AEgean; but the Northman evidently felt perfectly at home on the ocean, and rode joyously, like a seabird, on the vast Atlantic waves.
Not only is a race which comes by sea likely to be peculiarly vigorous, self-reliant, and inclined, when settled, to political liberty, but the very process of maritime migration can scarcely fail to intensify the spirit of freedom and independence. Timon or Genghis Khan, sweeping on from land to land with the vast human herd under his sway, becomes more despotic as the herd grows larger by accretion, and the area of its conquests is increased. But a maritime migration is a number of little joint stock enterprises implying limited leadership, common counsels, and a good deal of equality among the adventurers. We see in fact that the Saxon immigration resulted in the foundation of a number of small communities which, though they were afterwards fused into seven or eight petty kingdoms and ultimately into one large kingdom, must, while they existed, have fostered habits of local independence and self-government. Maritime migration would also facilitate the transition from the tribe to the nation, because the ships could hardly be manned on purely tribal principles; the early Saxon communities in England appear in fact to have been semi-tribal, the local bond predominating over the tribal, though a name with a tribal termination is retained. Room would scarcely be found in the ships for a full proportion of women; the want would be supplied by taking the women of the conquered country; and thus tribal rules of exclusive intermarriage, and all barriers connected with them, would be broken down.
Another obvious attribute of an island is freedom from invasion. The success of the Saxon invaders may be ascribed to the absence of strong resistance. The policy of Roman conquest, by disarming the natives, had destroyed their military character, as the policy of British conquest has done in India, where races which once fought hard against the invader under their native princes, such as the people of Mysore, are now wholly unwarlike. Anything like national unity, or power of co- operation against a foreign enemy, had at the same time been extirpated by a government which divided that it might command. The Northman in his turn owed his success partly to the want of unity among the Saxon principalities, partly and principally to the command of the sea which the Saxon usually abandoned to him, and which enabled him to choose his own point of attack, and to baffle the movements of the defenders. When Alfred built a fleet, the case was changed.
William of Normandy would scarcely have succeeded, great as his armament was, had it not been for the diversion effected in his favour by the landing of the Scandinavian pretender in the North, and the failure of provisions in Harold's Channel fleet, which compelled it to put into port. Louis of France was called in as a deliverer by the barons who were in arms against the tyranny of John; and it is not necessary to discuss the Tory description of the coming of William of Orange as a conquest of England by the Dutch. Bonaparte threatened invasion, but unhappily was unable to invade: unhappily we say, because if he had landed in England he would assuredly have there met his doom; the Russian campaign would have been antedated with a more complete result, and all the after-pages in the history of the Arch-Brigand would have been torn from the book of fate. England is indebted for her political liberties in great measure to the Teutonic character, but she is also in no small measure indebted to this immunity from invasion which has brought with it a comparative immunity from standing armies. In the Middle Ages the question between absolutism and that baronial liberty which was the germ and precursor of the popular liberty of after-times turned in great measure upon the relative strength of the national militia and of the bands of mercenaries kept in pay by overreaching kings. The bands of mercenaries brought over by John proved too strong for the patriot barons, and would have annulled the Great Charter, had not national liberty found a timely and powerful, though sinister, auxiliary in the ambition of the French. Prince Charles I. had no standing army, the troops taken into pay for the wars with Spain and France had been disbanded before the outbreak of the Revolution; and on that occasion the nation was able to overthrow the tyranny without looking abroad for assistance. But Charles II. had learned wisdom from his father's fate; he kept up a small standing army; and the Whigs, though at the crisis of the Exclusion Bill they laid their hands upon their swords, never ventured to draw them, but allowed themselves to be proscribed, their adherents to be ejected from the corporations, and their leaders to be brought to the scaffold. Resistance was in the same way rendered hopeless by the standing army of James II., and the patriots were compelled to stretch their hands for aid to William of Orange. Even so, it might have gone hard with them if James's soldiers, and above all Churchill, had been true to their paymaster. Navies are not political; they do not overthrow constitutions; and in the time of Charles I. it appears that the leading seamen were Protestant, inclined to the side of the Parliament. Perhaps Protestantism had been rendered fashionable in the navy by the naval wars with Spain.
A third consequence of insular position, especially in early times, is isolation. An extreme case of isolation is presented by Egypt, which is in fact a great island in the desert. The extraordinary fertility of the valley of the Nile produced an early development, which was afterwards arrested by its isolation, the isolation being probably intensified by the jealous exclusiveness of a powerful priesthood which discouraged maritime pursuits. The isolation of England, though comparatively slight, has still been an important factor in her history. She underwent less than the Continental provinces the influence of Roman Conquest. Scotland and Ireland escaped it altogether, for the tide of invasion, having flowed to the foot of the Grampians, soon ebbed to the line between the Solway and the Tyne. Britain has no monuments of Roman power and civilization like those which have been left in Gaul and Spain, and of the British Christianity of the Roman period hardly a trace, monumental or historical, remains. By the Saxon conquest England was entirely severed for a time from the European system. The missionary of ecclesiastical Rome recovered what the legionary had lost. Of the main elements of English character political and general, five were brought together when Ethelbert and Augustine met on the coast of Kent. The king represented Teutonism; the missionary represented Judaism, Christianity, imperial and ecclesiastical Rome. We mention Judaism as a separate element, because, among other things, the image of the Hebrew monarchy has certainly entered largely into the political conceptions of Englishmen, perhaps at least as largely as the image of Imperial Rome. A sixth element, classical Republicanism, came in with the Reformation, while the political and social influence of science is only just beginning to be felt. Still, after the conversion of England by Augustine, the Church, which was the main organ of civilization, and almost identical with it in the early Middle Ages, remained national; and to make it thoroughly Roman and Papal, in other words to assimilate it completely to the Church of the Continent, was the object of Hildebrand in promoting the enterprise of William. Roman and Papal the English Church was made, yet not so thoroughly so as completely to destroy its insular and Teutonic character. The Archbishop of Canterbury was still Papa alterius orbis; and the struggle for national independence of the Papacy commenced in England long before the struggle for doctrinal reform. The Reformation broke up the confederated Christendom of the Middle Ages, and England was then thrown back into an isolation very marked, though tempered by her sympathy with the Protestant party on the Continent. In later times the growth of European interests, of commerce, of international law, of international intercourse, of the community of intellect and science, has been gradually building again, on a sounder foundation than that of the Latin Church, the federation of Europe, or rather the federation of mankind. The political sympathy of England with Continental nations, especially with France, has been increasing of late in a very marked manner, the French Revolution of 1830 told at once upon the fortunes of English Reform, and the victory of the Republic over the reactionary attempt of May was profoundly felt by both parties in England. Placed too close to the Continent not to be essentially a part of the European system, England has yet been a peculiar and semi-independent part of it. In European progress she has often acted as a balancing and moderating power. She has been the asylum of vanquished ideas and parties. In the seventeenth century, when absolutism and the Catholic reaction prevailed on the Continent, she was the chief refuge of Protestantism and political liberty. When the French Revolution swept Europe, she threw herself into the anti-revolutionary scale. The tricolor has gone nearly round the world, at least nearly round Europe; but on the flag of England still remains the religious symbol of the era before the Revolution.
The insular arrogance of the English character is a commonplace joke. It finds, perhaps, its strongest expression in the saying of Milton that the manner of God is to reveal things first to His Englishmen. It has made Englishmen odious even to those who, like the Spaniards, have received liberation or protection from English hands. It stimulated the desperate desire to see France rid of the "Goddams" which inspired Joan of Arc. For an imperial people it is a very unlucky peculiarity, since it precludes not only fusion but sympathy and almost intercourse with the subject races. The kind heart of Lord Elgin, when he was Governor- General of India, was shocked by the absolute want of sympathy or bond of any kind, except love of conquest, between the Anglo-Indian and the native, and the gulf apparently, instead of being filled up, now yawns wider than ever.
It is needless to dwell on anything so obvious as the effect of an insular position in giving birth to commerce and developing the corresponding elements of political character. The British Islands are singularly well placed for trade with both hemispheres; in them, more than in any other point, may be placed the commercial centre of the world. It may be said that the nation looked out unconsciously from its cradle to an immense heritage beyond the Atlantic. France and Spain looked the same way, and became competitors with England for ascendancy in the New World, but England was more maritime, and the most maritime was sure to prevail. Canada was conquered by the British fleet. To the commerce and the maritime enterprise of former days, which were mainly the results of geographical position, has been added within the last century the vast development of manufactures produced by coal and steam, the parents of manufactures, as well as the expansion of the iron trade in close connection with manufactures. Nothing can be more marked than the effect of industry on political character in the case of England. From being the chief seat of reaction, the North has been converted by manufactures into the chief seat of progress. The Wars of the Roses were not a struggle of political principle; hardly even a dynastic struggle; they had their origin partly in a patriotic antagonism to the foreign queen and to her foreign councils; but they were in the main a vast faction-fight between two sections of an armed and turbulent nobility turned into buccaneers by the French wars, and, like their compeers all over Europe, bereft, by the decay of Catholicism, of the religious restraints with which their morality was bound up. Yet the Lancastrian party, or rather the party of Margaret of Anjou and her favourites, was the more reactionary, and it had the centre of its strength in the North, whence Margaret drew the plundering and devastating host which gained for her the second battle of St. Albans and paid the penalty of its ravages in the merciless slaughter of Towton. The North had been kept back in the race of progress by agricultural inferiority, by the absence of commerce with the Continent, and by border wars with Scotland. In the South was the seat of prosperous industry, wealth, and comparative civilization, and the banners of the Southern cities were in the armies of the House of York. The South accepted the Reformation, while the North was the scene of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Coming down to the Civil War in the time of Charles I., we find the Parliament strong in the South and East, where are still the centres of commerce and manufactures, even the iron trade, which has its smelting works in Sussex. In the North the feudal tie between landlord and tenant, and the sentiment of the past, preserve much of their force, and the great power in those parts is the Marquis of Newcastle, at once great territorial lord of the Middle Ages and elegant grand seigneur of the Renaissance, who brings into the field a famous regiment of his own retainers. In certain towns, such as Bradford and Manchester, there are germs of manufacturing industry, and these form the sinews of the Parliamentarian party in the district which is headed by the Fairfaxes. But in the Reform movement which extended through the first half of the present century, the geographical position of parties was reversed; the swarming cities of the North were then the great centres of Liberalism and the motive power of Reform; while the South, having by this time fallen into the hands of great landed proprietors, was Conservative. The stimulating effect of populous centres on opinion is a very familiar fact; even in the rural districts it is noticed by canvassers at elections that men who work in gangs are generally more inclined to the Liberal side than those who work separately.
In England, however, the agricultural element always has been and remains a full counterpoise to the manufacturing and commercial element. Agricultural England is not what Pericles called Attica, a mere suburban garden, the embellishment of a queenly city. It is a substantive interest and a political power. In the time of Charles I. it happened that, owing to the great quantity of land thrown into the market in consequence of the confiscation of the monastic estates, which had slipped through the fingers of the spendthrift courtiers to whom they were at first granted, small freeholders were very numerous in the South, and these men like the middle class in the towns, being strong Protestants, went with the Parliament against the Laudian reaction in religion. But land in the hands of great proprietors is Conservative, especially when it is held under entails and connected with hereditary nobility; and into the hands of great proprietors the land of England has now entirely passed. The last remnant of the old yeomen freeholders departed in the Cumberland Statesmen, and the yeoman freeholder in England is now about as rare as the other. Commerce has itself assisted the process by giving birth to great fortunes, the owners of which are led by social ambition to buy landed estates, because to land the odour of feudal superiority still clings, and it is almost the necessary qualification for a title. The land has also actually absorbed a large portion of the wealth produced by manufactures, and by the general development of industry; the estates of Northern landowners especially have enormously increased in value, through the increase of population, not to mention the not inconsiderable appropriation of commercial wealth by marriage. Thus the Conservative element retains its predominance, and it even seems as though the land of Milton, Vane, Cromwell, and the Reformers of 1832, might after all become, politically as well as territorially, the domain of a vast aristocracy of landowners, and the most reactionary instead of the most progressive country in Europe.
Before the repeal of the Corn Laws there was a strong antagonism of interest between the landowning aristocracy and the manufacturers of the North, but that antagonism is now at an end; the sympathy of wealth has taken its place; the old aristocracy has veiled its social pride and learned to conciliate the new men, who on their part are more than willing to enter the privileged circle. This junction is at present the great fact of English politics, and was the main cause of the overthrow of the Liberal Government in 1874. The growth of the great cities itself seems likely, as the number of poor householders increases, to furnish Reaction with auxiliaries in the shape of political Lazzaroni capable of being organized by wealth in opposition to the higher order of workmen and the middle class. In Harrington's "Oceana," there is much nonsense, but it rises at least to the level of Montesquieu in tracing the intimate connection of political power, even under elective institutions, with wealth in land.
Hitherto, the result of the balance between the landowning and commercial elements has been steadiness of political progress, in contrast on the one hand to the commercial republics of Italy, whose political progress was precocious and rapid but shortlived, and on the other hand to great feudal kingdoms where commerce was comparatively weak. England, as yet, has taken but few steps backwards. It remains to be seen what the future may bring under the changed conditions which we have just described. English commerce, moreover, may have passed its acme. Her insular position gave Great Britain during the Napoleonic wars, with immunity from invasion, a monopoly of manufactures and of the carrying trade. This element of her commercial supremacy is transitory, though others, such as the possession of coal, are not.
Let us now consider the effects of the division between the two islands and of those between different parts of the larger island. The most obvious effect of these is tardy consolidation, which is still indicated by the absence of a collective name for the people of the three kingdoms. The writer was once rebuked by a Scotchman for saying "England" and "English," instead of saying "Great Britain" and "British." He replied that the rebuke was just, but that we must say "British and Irish." The Scot had overlooked his poor connections.
We always speak of Anglo-Saxons and identify the extension of the Colonial Empire with that of the Anglo-Saxon race. But even if we assume that the Celts of England and of the Scotch Lowlands were exterminated by the Saxons, taking all the elements of Celtic population in the two islands together, they must bear a very considerable proportion to the Teutonic element. That large Irish settlements are being formed in the cities of Northern England is proved by election addresses coquetting with Home Rule. In the competition of the races on the American Continent the Irish more than holds its own. In the age of the steam- engine the Scotch Highlands, the mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland, of Wales, of Devonshire, and Cornwall, are the asylum of natural beauty, of poetry and hearts which seek repose from the din and turmoil of commercial life. In the primaeval age of conquest they, with seagirt Ireland, were the asylum of the weaker race. There the Celt found refuge when Saxon invasion swept him from the open country of England and from the Scotch Lowlands. There he was preserved with his own language, indicating by its variety of dialects the rapid flux and change of unwritten speech; with his own Christianity, which was that of Apostolic Britain; with his un-Teutonic gifts and weaknesses, his lively, social, sympathetic nature, his religious enthusiasm, essentially the same in its Calvinistic as in its Catholic guise, his superstition, his clannishness, his devotion to chiefs and leaders, his comparative indifference to institutions, and lack of natural aptitude for self-government.
The further we go in these inquiries the more reason there seems to be for believing that the peculiarities of races are not congenital, but impressed by primaeval circumstance. Not only the same moral and intellectual nature, but the same primitive institutions, are found in all the races that come under our view; they appear alike in Teuton, Celt, and Semite. That which is not congenital is probably not indelible, so that the less favoured races, placed under happier circumstances, may in time be brought to the level of the more favoured, and nothing warrants inhuman pride of race. But it is surely absurd to deny that peculiarities of race, when formed, are important factors in history. Mr. Buckle, who is most severe upon the extravagances of the race theory, himself runs into extravagances not less manifest in a different direction. He connects the religious character of the Spaniards with the influence of apocryphal volcanoes and earthquakes, whereas it palpably had its origin in the long struggle with the Moors. He, in like manner, connects the theological tendencies of the Scotch with the thunderstorms which he imagines (wrongly, if we may judge by our own experience) to be very frequent in the Highlands, whereas Scotch theology and the religious habits of the Scotch generally were formed in the Lowlands and among the Teutons, not among the Celts.
The remnant of the Celtic race in Cornwall and West Devon was small, and was subdued and half incorporated by the Teutons at a comparatively early period; yet it played a distinct and a decidedly Celtic part in the Civil War of the seventeenth century. It played a more important part towards the close of the following century by giving itself almost in a mass to John Wesley. No doubt the neglect of the remote districts by the Bishops of Exeter and their clergy left Wesley a clear field; but the temperament of the people was also in his favour. Anything fervent takes with the Celt, while he cannot abide the religious compromise which commends itself to the practical Saxon.
In the Great Charter there is a provision in favour of the Welsh, who were allied with the Barons in insurrection against the Crown. The Barons were fighting for the Charter, the Welshmen only for their barbarous and predatory independence. But the struggle for Welsh independence helped those who were struggling for the Charter; and the remark may be extended in substance to the general influence of Wales on the political contest between the Crown and the Barons. Even under the House of Lancaster, Llewellyn was faintly reproduced in Owen Glendower. The powerful monarchy of the Tudors finally completed the annexation. But isolation survived independence. The Welshman remained a Celt and preserved his language and his clannish spirit, though local magnates, such as the family of Wynn, filled the place in his heart once occupied by the chief. Ecclesiastically he was annexed, but refused to be incorporated, never seeing the advantage of walking in the middle path which the State Church of England had traced between the extremes of Popery and Dissent. He took Methodism in a Calvinistic and almost wildly enthusiastic form. In this respect his isolation is likely to prove far more important than anything which Welsh patriotism strives to resuscitate by Eisteddfodds. In the struggle, apparently imminent, between the system of Church Establishments and religious equality, Wales furnishes a most favourable battle-ground to the party of Disestablishment.
The Teutonic realm of England was powerful enough to subdue, if not to assimilate, the remnants of the Celtic race in Wales and their other western hills of refuge. But the Teutonic realm of Scotland was not large or powerful enough to subdue the Celts of the Highlands, whose fastnesses constituted in geographical area the greater portion of the country. It seems that in the case of the Highlands, as in that of Ireland, Teutonic adventurers found their way into the domain of the Celts and became chieftains, but in becoming chieftains they became Celts. Down to the Hanoverian times the chain of the Grampians which from the Castle of Stirling is seen rising like a wall over the rich plain, divided from each other two nationalities, differing totally in ideas, institutions, habits, and costume, as well as in speech, and the less civilized of which still regarded the more civilized as alien intruders, while the more civilized regarded the less civilized as robbers. Internally, the topographical character of the Highlands was favourable to the continuance of the clan system, because each clan having its own separate glen, fusion was precluded, and the progress towards union went no further than the domination of the more powerful clans over the less powerful. Mountains also preserve the general equality and brotherhood which are not less essential to the constitution of the clan than devotion to the chief, by preventing the use of that great minister of aristocracy, the horse. At Killiecrankie and Prestonpans the leaders of the clan and the humblest clansman still charged on foot side by side. Macaulay is undoubtedly right in saying that the Highland risings against William III. and the first two Georges were not dynastic but clan movements. They were in fact the last raids of the Gael upon the country which had been wrested from him by the Sassenach. Little cared the clansman for the principles of Filmer or Locke, for the claims of the House of Stuart or for those of the House of Brunswick. Antipathy to the Clan Campbell was the nearest approach to a political motive. Chiefs alone, such as the unspeakable Lovat, had entered as political condottieri into the dynastic intrigues of the period, and brought the claymores of their clansmen to the standard of their patron, as Indian chiefs in the American wars brought the tomahawks of their tribes to the standard of France or England. Celtic independence greatly contributed to the general perpetuation of anarchy in Scotland, to the backwardness of Scotch civilization, and to the abortive weakness of the Parliamentary institutions. Union with the more powerful kingdom at last supplied the force requisite for the taming of the Celt. Highlanders, at the bidding of Chatham's genius, became the soldiers, and are now the pet soldiers, of the British monarchy. A Hanoverian tailor with improving hand shaped the Highland plaid, which had originally resembled the simple drapery of the Irish kern, into a garb of complex beauty, well suited for fancy balls. The power of the chiefs and the substance of the clan system were finally swept away, though the sentiment lingers, even in the Transatlantic abodes of the clansmen, and is prized, like the dress, as a remnant of social picturesqueness in a prosaic and levelling age. The hills and lakes—at the thought of which even Gibbon shuddered—are the favourite retreats of the luxury which seeks in wildness refreshment from civilization. After Culloden, Presbyterianism effectually made its way into the Highlands, of which a great part had up to that time been little better than heathen; but it did not fail to take a strong tinge of Celtic enthusiasm and superstition.
Of all the lines of division in Great Britain, the most important politically has been that which is least clearly traced by the hand of nature. The natural barriers between England and Scotland were not sufficient to prevent the extension of the Saxon settlements and kingdoms across the border. In the name of the Scotch capital we have a monument of a union before that of 1603. That the Norman Conquest did not include the Saxons of the Scotch Lowlands was due chiefly to the menacing attitude of Danish pretenders, and the other military dangers which led the Conqueror to guard himself on the north by a broad belt of desolation. Edward I., in attempting to extend his feudal supremacy over Scotland, may well have seemed to himself to have been acting in the interest of both nations, for a union would have put an end to border war, and would have delivered the Scotch in the Lowlands from the extremity of feudal oppression, and the rest of the country from a savage anarchy, giving them in place of those curses by far the best government of the time. The resistance came partly from mere barbarism, partly from Norman adventurers, who were no more Scotch than English, whose aims were purely selfish, and who would gladly have accepted Scotland as a vassal kingdom from Edward's hand. But the annexation would no doubt have formidably increased the power of the Crown, not only by extending its dominions, but by removing that which was a support often of aristocratic anarchy in England, but sometimes of rudimentary freedom. Had the whole island fallen under one victorious sceptre, the next wielder of that sceptre, under the name of the great Edward's wittold son, would have been Piers Gaveston. But what no prescience on the part of any one in the time of Edward I. could possibly have foreseen was the inestimable benefit which disunion and even anarchy indirectly conferred on the whole island in the shape of a separate Scotch Reformation. Divines, when they have exhausted their reasonings about the rival forms of Church government, will probably find that the argument which had practically most effect in determining the question was that of the much decried but in his way sagacious James I., "No bishop, no king!" In England the Reformation was semi-Catholic; in Sweden it was Lutheran; but in both countries it was made by the kings, and in both Episcopacy was retained. Where the Reformation was the work of the people, more popular forms of Church government prevailed. In Scotland the monarchy, always weak, was at the time of the Reformation practically in abeyance, and the master of the movement was emphatically a man of the people. As to the nobles, they seem to have thought only of appropriating the Church lands, and to have been willing to leave to the nation the spiritual gratification of settling its own religion. Probably they also felt with regard to the disinherited proprietors of the Church lands that "stone dead had no fellow." The result was a democratic and thoroughly Protestant Church, which drew into itself the highest energies, political as well as religious, of a strong and great-hearted people, and by which Laud and his confederates, when they had apparently overcome resistance in England, were as Milton says, "more robustiously handled." If the Scotch auxiliaries did not win the decisive battle of Marston Moor, they enabled the English Parliamentarians to fight and win it. During the dark days of the Restoration, English resistance to tyranny was strongly supported on the ecclesiastical side by the martyr steadfastness of the Scotch till the joint effort triumphed in the Revolution. It is singular and sad to find Scotland afterwards becoming one vast rotten borough managed in the time of Pitt by Dundas, who paid the borough-mongers by appointments in India, with calamitous consequences to the poor Hindoo. But the intensity of the local evil perhaps lent force to the revulsion, and Scotland has ever since been a distinctly Liberal element in British politics, and seems now likely to lead the way to a complete measure of religious freedom.